For God to be good and have a relationship with us based on mutual love, He had to give humanity a choice. So, God created our species in His Image, made us perfect (knowing only good), and provided everything needed to succeed including perfect direction (and what to avoid). Then He gave us liberty; the ability to choose what to do. At the point of decision, Adam chose to disobey God because his heart’s strongest momentary desire did not value God’s command above what he wanted; then he acted reaping the consequences of spiritual separation from God. This is idolatry; a human being placing their desire above their Creator’s desire.
If God commands a human being to do something, they have the ability to do it.
As such, Adam initially had the wherewithal to obey God and reject the option being presented to him.
When Adam died spiritually, all of his descendants inherited spiritual death; we lost the capability to (1) be morally perfect and (2) seek God without being regenerated. This is the problem within the human condition; the species is corrupted and we no longer have the moral ability to obey consistently.
God’s requirement to be holy (set apart from evil) did not change; it never has. It could not change or He would not be who He says He is. God is unchanging, always righteous and just. Because He is also all-knowing, He foresaw Adam’s choice; and, because He is merciful, He made various provisions for humanity’s fallenness through the ages.
God had initiated a legal requirement by which a corrupted human being could be reconciled to Him and become holy. This requirement has always been faith (Hebrews 11:6).
- “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:4 to 10)
Now that’s grace! Faith is not faith unless it results in obedience (James 2:20 and 26), and all believers grow in obedience from faith to faith, from day to day, from glory to glory. It is only by God’s grace that we can have enduring faith.
- “But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil (or spiritual blindness) is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2nd Corinthians 3:16 to 18 New International Version)
In studying Romans chapter 1, I see that God is absolutely righteous in keeping His Word to separate fallen, unholy humans from Himself and from the redeemed! I also see that God is entirely gracious in saving some; and, He invites us to participate in the process based on our heart’s desires. I see that He is incredibly loving by paying the debt for all of humanity through the sacrifice of His own Son who willingly died for us.
God created a plan to allow humans to freely love Him while progressively purging our ability to be idolatrous. His wisdom far exceeds my ability. He is God and I am not.
All humans have a propensity to sin based on the strongest momentary personal desire. That is the struggle. Overcoming impulses that seem undeniable at the time. As we live and interact, our desires change being influenced by our intellect, senses, and information. Praise God, that He deposits His Holy Spirit within the redeemed to help us choose rightly each moment. And if we choose incorrectly, the Holy Spirit trains the regenerated to submit to His leading by crucifying the idolatrous tendency (the old nature).
- “This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” (2nd Timothy 2:11 to 13).
- “… the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.” (2nd Thessalonians 3:3)
THE MAIN THING:
Having concluded the context in which this letter was written, let’s move on to the passage of study I am focusing on which is Romans 1:16 to 32. It is my prayer that you will be able to celebrate God’s righteousness and His grace.
One has to contemplate how it is possible that God’s righteousness is revealed in a believer’s faith. It is written:
- “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man, and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore, God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 1:16 to 25).
Here we see that the Gospel of God (to which Paul was set apart) was the saving message that God fulfilled the promise of the Messiah (Jesus, the Christ) to reconcile humanity to Himself exactly as the prophets had foretold by the Holy Spirit (Romans 1: 1 to 2). Paul explained to the Corinthians the Gospel this way:
“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you (unless you believed in vain). For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: (1) that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and (2) that He was buried, and that (3) He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and (4) that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. (These eyewitness accounts were prior to His ascension). And (5) Then last of all He was seen by me also (Paul), as by one born out of due time.” (This was the ascended Christ who was still very alive and aware of what was happening on earth).
- Please refer to 1st Corinthians 15:1 to 8 noting my inserted explanatory words in parenthesis.
In the Old Testament Scripture, God had said to His prophet:
- “…Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry. “Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:2 to 4).
We understand that by hearing and believing God’s good news as the truth, a person is saved. Whether or not such a person fully comprehends all of the Godhead’s works is not essential to salvation. What is imperative is that a person understands that they need to be saved from the righteous wrath of God and that God paid the price of sin to redeem people from the penalty of death through Jesus Christ who is alive today. It is written:
- “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23; and,
- “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9 and 10).
When Paul told the Romans that he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, he understood that people would think that the simplicity of this message and the actuality of a One (being fully Human and fully God) rising from the dead was absurd. Elsewhere he wrote:
- “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” (1st Corinthians 1:18 to 21).
That’s right! This simple and miraculous belief or act of faith is God’s power to save. Do I completely understand how regeneration occurs? No. But I know (that I know, that I know) it is the Holy Spirit’s work in a person’s heart that quickens the received Word of God for regeneration (for rebirth to newness of spiritual life). I am forever thankful! Our faith is not self-originating; rather it is the grace and goodness of God that leads a human to repent and trust Him.
- “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,” (Titus 3:4 to 6).
- “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. … “Therefore, I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” (John 6:44 and 65).
- “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” (John 10:28 to 29).
The Divine, the Deity, the Godhead, has manifested God’s character to us and our response should acknowledge His grace.
The only requirement of salvation is to place your faith, trust, or confidence in God’s provision of the atoning redemptive sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. This is to take God at His Word and rely on it. Yet, many willfully choose to accept unbelief as their way. Since the LORD promised to not reject anyone who would truly seek to know Him, then unbelief is not only a condition of human nature from birth, it becomes a preference. Now you may disagree with me, but please consider what Jesus said:
- “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:16 to 19).
Sin is pleasurable until its consequences catch up with people. Perhaps that is why so many seek the LORD when they come to the end of themselves, are suffering and unable to solve their problems, or realize the futility of life without God. Sometimes it is at this point that they respond positively to the revelation that God has given. Please note, not responding is a negative response. It is a refusal to give God glory. It is better to accept the manifestation of God without continuing too far down the broad path to hell.
So, how does saving a human being reveal God’s righteousness? Shouldn’t righteousness punish crimes against God and others?
In my study of this chapter, I came across some information about Martin Luther who was challenged by the same question. It certainly would be right to allow humanity to reap the outcomes of their actions. As I understand it, Martin Luther was struggling with Psalm 31:1. Martin Luther said, “Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which (through grace and sheer mercy) God justifies us through faith.”
As I reflect on the full counsel of Scripture, I see that God has revealed His nature to us. The LORD God is holy and good. He is all-knowing, all-powerful, eternal, ever-present, all-knowing, gracious, just, loving, merciful, righteous, self-existing, sovereign, unchanging, above creation, and involved with His creation.
Since He is immutable, He must be all of Himself at all times. He has to be loving, merciful, and gracious at the same time as being holy, righteous, involved, and all-knowing (etcetera). So, my wonderful, merciful Saviour as the Sovereign Creator set the terms by which He could pardon a person; and, He consistently and righteously applies the judgment.
The just will live by faith and the unjust will die because of sin (which is the manifestation of unbelief).
But it is not that the person is just (or upright) on their own. NO!
- “As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.” (Romans 3:10 to 11).
The truth is, God handles the believing sinner as though they had not ever sinned and provided a full pardon. This person is declared justified by God’s verdict based on God’s righteous requirement of faith; and, saving faith is the heart’s conviction and total reliance on the Messiah’s victory as the means by which we are reconciled to God. So, through faith we demonstrate God’s righteousness because God’s righteousness is His application of His justice. He keeps His Word or Laws perfectly at all times. He set the terms of salvation, paid the price, revealed the truth to us, and our part was to receive Him by faith. Then He re-creates us in Christ Jesus. It is written:
- “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2nd Corinthians 5:21).
We are not worthy. Praise God, Jesus Christ is worthy and we are in Him and our sins are covered by the blood of the Lamb (Romans 4:7).
So, then what of those who did not believe the Gospel, or haven’t heard about it? These questions are difficult because we are just growing in the knowledge of God’s character. We would prefer an abundance of grace and limited justice (that is until someone has angered us to the point of wanting to be avenged).
Because of a human’s propensity to imagine God based on our own corrupt image (or even something lesser) we often equate the wrath of God to human anger which has impure motives. Please exercise caution here. Whether we are serving a false god or our flawed conception of God, we become like the one we serve. Child of God, it is crucial that we obtain the image of God from Scripture. When we do not understand, pray and study more rather than lean on our own limited understanding.
- “Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, and so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil.” (Proverbs 3:3 to 7).
Did you notice I chose an Old Testament verse? You see, the Gospel of God has always been based on faith. Without going into the details of faith in the different dispensations, I will just point to three believers who lived in Old Testament times who were mentioned in the New Testament. They believed what God told them and they agreed to obey Him. Refer to . Hebrews 11:1, 7 to 8, and 24 to 25.
How did Noah, Abraham and Moses know what sin was before the law and how did they have faith? They knew. They also had a healthy fear or reverence of God and His righteousness.
You see, as good as we want to be, our “good falls short” of the glory of God. God’s wrath is not evil, it is actually righteousness and it gives people what is deserved. God’s wrath gives them over to their desires which has frightening outcomes but it does not come without warning. We need the LORD to give us His desires. The truth is that God has revealed Himself to everyone.
It is written:
- “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world… ” (Psalm 19:1 to 4).
Let us consider what God has revealed about Himself and the means by which He does so:
- He displays Himself as the Creator (all-powerful, eternal, self-existing, sovereign, outside creation but involved with it). He did this by fashioning humanity with spiritual, physical, and intellectual senses to experience His existence when interacting with nature (Romans 1:20; Ephesians 3:9). We recognize the order and design that can not be random. Scientifically, the study of physics and biology also points to intelligent design. Then spiritually, even within a human being’s experience, the heart longs to fulfill its purpose and wants there to be something more and bigger than oneself.
- He presents His goodness and love by sending Christ to teach us the truth and explain how to fulfill God’s righteous requirement of faith (John 1:17; John 3:16; Titus 2:11 to 12). For those who repent and follow Him, He provides the Holy Spirit as a comforter, teacher, sanctifier, and guarantee (2nd Corinthians 1:22; 2nd Corinthians 5:5; and Ephesians 1:14).
- He shows us He is gracious and merciful by offering fallen humans reconciliation to Himself through sacrificing His beloved Son as payment (1st John 1:9; Romans 1:16; Romans 3:24 to 31). God would be righteous in giving us what we deserve, but He demonstrates mercy in forgiving us, and grace in giving us what we did not merit. He is righteous by justifying those who would fulfill the requirement of faith (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38; Habakkuk 2:4). The payment was for all humans, the requirement of faith is individually fulfilled allowing human will.
- He reveals to us that He is eternal, above creation while involved with it, and all-knowing by the design and execution of His plan of the ages (Acts 3:19-21; Romans 8:19-25; Ephesians 1:10; the Psalms, Revelation chapters 21 through 22). His wonderful plan was laid out from the foundation of the world and disclosed in various dispensations of time, foretelling the end from the beginning (1st Corinthians 2:7; 1st Corinthians 10:11; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:26; Hebrews 9:26).
- He provides evidence that He is sovereign, eternal, above creation, all-knowing, ever-present, and unchanging through historic and prophetic facts surrounding the Gospel of Christ (Luke 24:44; 1st Corinthians 15:1 to 23). Only the everlasting Ruler of the universe who transcends space and time could foretell the future, have it published in Scripture, and still ensure His plans could not be thwarted by opposition! For more information on historical facts that were prophesied, you can reference the “Choices” tab of DesiringFruitfullness.ca.
- He proves to us He is loving and faithful by the supernatural spreading of the Gospel worldwide to all nations after Christ’s resurrection to this very day. (Matthew 28:19 to 20; Mark 16:15 to 20; Luke 24:41; Acts 1:8; Romans 15:18 to 29; 1st Corinthians 1:21; and Hebrews 2:1 to 4). This loving God looks after His Word to perform it. He is faithful to ensure His Word is declared to offer the chance of redemption to all who will repent. He has also ensured Old and New Testament Scripture have been preserved.
- He explains He is righteous, and just by His righteous wrath evident in humanity experiencing consequences of their actions including fear, increased entanglement or bondage to sin, and willful depraved thinking (Roman 1:18 to 32). God gives people over to what they want. He shines the light in creation, through Scripture, in dreams, in our consciences, and by angels whether heavenly or earthly. If people want to submit to the LORD, He will work with them to increase their appetite for His WORD and His Ways leading them to repentance. If people prefer to rebel and seek their sinful desires, He gives them over to their own desires.
- He demonstrates He is self-existent and just by the provision of destiny for the rebels in the lake of fire (Matthew 25:41 and 46; Revelation 14:9 to 11; and Revelation 20:10 to 15) and for the overcoming redeemed in eternity reconciled to Him in a new heaven and earth (Revelation 5:10; Revelation chapters 21 to 22). Only the self-existent who is not reliant on any other source for origin and sustainment can create a destiny for all of creation.
- He is Holy because there is no other like Him. He is set apart, triune and perfectly united, and completely worthy of all praise.
- “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come… You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.” (Revelation 4:8 and 11).
Romans 1 explains that humanity is without excuse regardless if they had heard the gospel because God has revealed Himself to all in many ways. By humanity understanding that there is a holy sovereign God who holds us accountable for our actions and that our actions are innately selfish and wicked, we are confronted with a choice. Many choose to suppress the truth. They would rather lie to themselves because it helps them enjoy sin without feeling guilty. It is like refusing to find out that they are wrong, willful blindness. The chapter is speaking about all of humanity from the fall of man to now. The condition of humanity without regeneration is physically alive and spiritually dead.
This also applies to any person who claims to have Scriptural and theological knowledge but fails to apply it as a way of life. Man is guilty of:
- Suppressing God’s truth (Romans 1:18) and twisting its meaning
- Ignoring God’s revelation (Romans 1:19 to 20); and,
- Perverting God’s glory (Romans 1: 21 to 23).
You see, everyone needs God’s righteousness because no human being other than the God-Man Jesus Christ could obey the law perfectly. Scripture says in James 2:10 that if you broke one law, you are guilty of breaking the whole law. As such, none of us is good enough to approach God, and all of us are worthy of the penalty of death. But God is righteous in responding to faith (as the righteous requirement for salvation) to declare us just. This justification is a positional standing or an office. A believer grows in this office and as such progressively God’s righteousness is fulfilled in us through the Holy Spirit with our participation. God’s righteousness is:
- Past tense: the moment that justification is imputed to those who believe (or the just declaration is made);
- Present tense: imparted progressively in regeneration and sanctification through submission to the Holy Spirit and the Word (which always agree); and,
- Future tense: culminates in glorification when our “standing of justified” and “state of being sanctified” become identical (which will not happen in this body). (1st Corinthians 15:50 to 54).
Romans 1 ends with a very sobering message. Scripture provides a list of sins that are symptomatic of a debased mind which is a result of willfully relinquishing the correct knowledge of God. Those abandoning what God has revealed about Himself are (1) deprived of the protection of God; and, (2) delivered up to follow their own unqualified minds which leads to slavery to lasciviousness.
When we look at some of the itemized unfitting behaviours, it includes covetousness, maliciousness, envy, strife, deceit, boasters, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, and unforgiving among other things. In today’s society, these things are often accepted as natural tendencies and excused. Sometimes we thank God for His mercy on a person who is continuing in their sin; now I wonder if it is actually His judgment that is permitting a sinful person to persist in wayward thinking and actions that result in self-destruction.
You see, Romans 1:25 states that those who are continuing in the practice of sin have exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator. What is the lie? It is that we can be like God and create our own rules; it is idolatry where we are our own gods as the serpent said in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:5).
How many times did I allow myself to enjoy a movie, a joke, or a book that was filled with sinful thoughts? I gave myself permission because I was not the one originating the thoughts, or it was just fiction, or I didn’t actually do a bad deed. The truth is anyone approving of sin or finding enjoyment in it is also guilty of unrighteousness (Romans 1:32). If I know people who are living in sin, I no longer can be a bystander. I am compelled to share the Gospel or leave the situation. Yes, Jesus ate with sinners AND He told them to repent and sin no more.
If I love the LORD and am guided by His Spirit, I must love what He loves and hate what He hates. (Proverbs 8:13). He hates all sin and is willing to forgive all who will believe in Him.
When I reflect on my past, I think it was His grace that did not leave me in the mire of my depravity and illuminated my mind to see His goodness. It was His mercy that allowed me to repent. His generation of faith in my heart through His Word sustains me from faith to faith and from glory to glory.
God’s righteousness means that He must judge and reward according to what is right. And in His goodness, He will remove the presence of sin (and all those who love it) from those who are justified by faith. This also means that those who have been faithful to Him will share in Christ’s inheritance and rule and reign with Him.
- “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (1st Peter 1:13 to 19).
God’s justice is not about equity, it is about righteousness. He does not evaluate us on scales or a comparison curve. He has one requirement of faith; and, when this requirement is met, there is fruit in increasing abundance. Thank God for His righteous requirement of faith and for His grace that offers it.
All Scripture in this blog is from the New King James Version unless otherwise specified.
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